The benefits of vocalising with text

Matteo Dalle Fratte, Melofonetica Founder, explains why vocalising with text is such a valuable exercise for singers.

Singers vocalise to warm up, build singing technique and grow vocal stamina and strength. Vocalising exercises usually focus on vowels and it is much less common for singers to vocalise using consonants. If consonants are used, they’re typically articulated on their own without vowels, for example in exercises with the rolled r or the long constrictive consonants vv and ff.

Singers don’t often vocalise using lines of text or lyrics, but in the Melofonetica Method, we believe it’s really useful to practise vocalising with text for a number of reasons:

1. When we perform we need to do so much more than just vowel vocalisation: we use all the phonetic elements of text, even in coloratura arias where there is still text in the ornamentation.

2. By vocalising with text, singers can focus on one combination of phonetic elements at a time, singing notes and intervals across the registers with an awareness of how different vowel and consonant sounds relate to each other and how airflow needs to be balanced and adjusted appropriately across the different phonemes.

3. In sung Italian, vocalising with text gives us the opportunity to practise distinguishing long and short consonant sounds, which is fundamental for good sung Italian diction.

4. Singing long consonants well creates more resonant vowels!

5. Using the full range of Italian phonetic elements actually helps singers to maintain a healthy vocal system. The correct production of long consonants in particular helps to:

  • Maintain an active and high tongue position
  • Reduce tension in the tongue root
  • Keep the soft palate flexible
  • Activate the muscles engaged in breath support
  • Optimise the pharyngeal space
  • Lower formant frequencies to create the best operatic sound
Vocalise like the great Italian singers!

There are some popular lines that have been used by singing teachers for a very long time, some of which have been handed down to me from my singing teacher, the bass Paolo Badoer, who studied with Gilda Dalla Rizza.

Dalla Rizza was Puccini’s favourite soprano and a singing teacher at the Venice Conservatoire. She trained many successful singers, including coaching Maria Callas for her role as Violetta in La traviata. Dalla Rizza’s teachings on singing technique were in turn passed down from famous singers before her, such as Adelina Patti and Giuditta Pasta.

Popular lines that these great Italian singers would use to vocalise included:

O che bel sole
È primavera
Un giardin di rose

It’s really beneficial to practise these lines, with a simple triad of notes, focusing each time on the different sequences of consonants and vowels. Alternatively, using lines from famous arias that combine different phonetic elements is also a great way to vocalise, such as the line 'Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore'.

Find out more

For more information on the benefits of consonants in sung Italian and 120 vocalising exercises, make sure you get a copy of the Melofonetica Method book, available now from all major booksellers.